The Leaves Are Turning Brown – Chapter 22

The next morning I wake up to an empty bed.  I panic, looking around the room wide eyed, but relax again when I hear the shower.  I put all the pillows together and sit up in bed.  It must be mid-morning already, as the sun is already above the trees in the clear sky.  I remember when I was younger, during my late teens, sitting for hours and watching the sky change and move.  I will never understand people that don’t look up and see the beauty in a summer sky, or sunset, or dawn.

Jules comes in from the bathroom, one towel wrapped around her head and one around her body.

“Morning.” I croak at her, instantly clearing my throat.  I meant it to sound clear and warm, but it came out croaky and guilty. I still feel awkward and contrite for what happened in the second test room yesterday, and can sense the atmosphere in here.

Jules walks over, sits down next to me on the bed, takes her hair out of the towel and swings it around, the wet locks slosh onto my face, soaking me and the pillow.  Jules laughs and I, slightly spluttery, laugh too.

“You just scared me a bit, that’s all.” she smiles her warm smile at me. “I just wasn’t expecting it”.

“But you did feel it?” I asked, breaking into a more serious tone, that I notice too late.

“Yes, I did.  It’s difficult to explain, but I felt you hugging me, felt your hands on my back, but I couldn’t see you.  When I put my arms around you there was nothing.  It was, well, odd, I suppose.  But what from yesterday wasn’t odd?”.

Jules stood up, dropping both towels, and walked to her bag to get some clothes.  From the bed my eyes took in her svelte and soft form.  It was a refreshing change to the seriousness of the last few days, to be this relaxed with each other again.  I shuffled down a bit, int the warm bed, but when I went to lay my head back, the cold, wet, pillow, ejected me from the bed and I took a shower.

We sat down for an early lunch of sandwiches and cakes. Esther was slightly distant, conversing very lightly with us.  I think the failure of her experiment yesterday had disappointed her more than I released.  I offered an olive branch that we could re-perform the test, just in case.

“That’s quite alright, but I appreciate the offer. Today I thought we’d go up to the roof.  I have laid out another experiment there, using radio waves to monitor your projections.  We’ll need to be outside for the equipment, but the weather looks fine today, don’t you think?”.

On the way up Jules pulls my hand and we stop on the stairway.

“I’ll come for the start, but then I think I’ll go to the room.  Come and find as soon as you’re finished, ok?” she had a stern look on her face, but still smiled warmly the she finished speaking.  I agreed to come straight to her when we were done.

Walking out on to the roof I noticed immediately how modern the structure up here is.  The roof has been almost completely replaced with walkways, flat tarmac, and even a helipad on the far side.  The floor has markings all over it: dashes and arcs of different coloured paint, as if it were a mural, best viewed from the air.

Esther directs Jules to take a seat at a control platform, but asks me to move over the a blue circle, about 4 metres in front of them.  The wind blows me and I teeter on the flat surface.  Julie’s hair is blowing out behind her in a train of burnt sienna, brown and red like the leaves on the trees all around us.

Esther fiddles with some controls and 4 large curved shields extend fro the floor. In front of the control platform another small dish spins round to face me.

“Don’t worry, these are just receivers. The four there” she shouts indicating to the large curved shields, “they are just for channeling any waves you create into the array, down here in front of me”.  Up here her voice is horse shouting over the wind and the trees, rustling all around.

I can’t see what I am supposed to do, but then notice four more blue circles on the floor.  At the flick of a switch by Esther the blue circles begin to glow.  I understand what to do; those circles are pressure mats.  I look over at Jules, smiling at me with a slightly bemused look in her eye.  As I look around again and prepare, Jules rises and returns downstairs, under the critical eye of Esther and one of her men, who followed us up a moment ago.

Esther returns her eyes to me, and with a nod indicates that everything is ready.  I hear a slight buzz fro the equipment around me and start to focus on the blue circles.  I look around at the circles on the floor, trying to imagine the viewpoint of Esther at the controls from each one.  I start to see light emanating from where I stand, and four glimmers start to move away from me.  I look around at each and focus on walking toward the blue circles.  As the glimmers move away I see them all turn inwards, stepping backwards slowly, away from me. They are all looking directly at me, but I can’t make them out to see what’s happening.  The buzz is getting louder, making it hard for me to focus on the glimmers.  They start to fade as they approach the circles.  I see each of them, in time, place one heel on the circle.  The blue on each mat flickers and then they are gone.  The buzz dies away and I look over to Esther.  She is smiling and looking at the control board, as lights turn off and it goes dark.  She stands up and looks at me, beaming.

“It worked, I got a reading!”. She starts removing a small laptop from the controls and she walks toward me.

“What did you see?  It appears all the pads were activated at precisely the same time, but only for a moment.  I also got some excellent readings from the radio detectors. I need to analyse this data, please excuse me.”  She walks fast down off the roof and I just see her heading for the vaults as I come down, turning to go to the room.  It’s odd to walk these corridors alone, and unsupervised.  I noticed today that Esther’s men are much less noticeable.  Perhaps she is starting to trust us.

I walk down the carpeted hall, along past all the closed doors.  I see a glimmer at each door and see what they see as they open the doors and look in. Most are bedrooms, one bathroom, a linen closet.  There is one room at the end of the hall past ours, so I pause outside our room and watch the glimmer look in.  Inside this room there are a number of electronic devices, and some equipment similar to that on the roof, albeit smaller.  I look and see that some of the equipment is pointed at the wall separating this room and where Jules and I have been sleeping.  I go into our room and see Jules lying on the bed, reading.  I motion for her to follow me and head straight into the bathroom, turning the shower and taps on.

“They are watching us though the wall.  In the next room there is a load of equipment monitoring us in here. I knew we shouldn’t stay.  Again I’ve put you in danger.”  My voice sounds panicked, so I calm down and look into Julie’s eyes.

“Let’s get out of here.  I think I’ve got all that I came for. To stay any longer may be dangerous.”

“Ok,” Jules says calmly “after dinner we go down and get the car.  I’ll pack our things while you distract Esther. We’ll meet in the stables. I saw your mum’s car there.”